Addition of Storen gives Blue Jays flexibility

Right-hander has experience as closer and setup man

Addition of Storen gives Blue Jays flexibility

TORONTO -- The one word Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins has repeated over and over this offseason is "flexibility," and the club believes it gained even more of that with Friday's trade for right-hander Drew Storen.

Toronto acquired Storen and cash considerations from the Nationals in exchange for Ben Revere and a player to be named. All of a sudden, the Blue Jays' pitching staff lacks clarity, but it doesn't lack options, and manager John Gibbons' task will be making sure all of the pieces fit.

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With Spring Training a little more than a month away, the Blue Jays have several questions to answer. Will Storen close or be used in a setup role? Should Aaron Sanchez and Roberto Osuna remain in the bullpen or transition to the starting rotation? Is Michael Saunders healthy enough to start in left field?

The number of uncertainties is somewhat alarming, but these are good problems to have. Storen's arrival potentially throws the roles of Sanchez and Osuna into question, but the downside of that unknown is far outweighed by the addition of another high-caliber arm. The way Atkins sees it, the more the better.

Blue Jays land Storen in trade with Nationals

"There's now more flexibility, we feel like we have the potential to better maximize our 25-man roster," Atkins said. "Seeing Saunders and Revere as everyday pieces, didn't really feel like we were fully maximizing [by having both]. ... Now adding Drew to the back end of our bullpen allows us to have flexibility and depth there."

The Blue Jays currently have four starting pitchers with guaranteed jobs: Marcus Stroman, Marco Estrada, R.A. Dickey and J.A. Happ. Drew Hutchison and Jesse Chavez are expected to compete for the final rotation spot, but Storen's arrival at least increases the possibility that Sanchez or Osuna could be used there as well.

Storen will miss DC, but excited for chance in Toronto

In the bullpen, Toronto was expected to feature Osuna, Sanchez, Brett Cecil, Aaron Loup and Ryan Tepera, among others. Osuna is the incumbent closer after a successful rookie season, but Storen will have to receive some consideration for the role with 95 career saves on his resume.

There was controversy in Washington when Storen lost his job days before the non-waiver Trade Deadline to Jonathan Papelbon despite having gone 29-for-31 in save opportunities with a 1.73 ERA up to that point. There could be save opportunities for Storen in Toronto, but there's also a possibility he returns to a setup role.

Hot Stove Tracker

If a setup role bothers Storen, he wasn't letting on during his introductory conference call with the Toronto media on Saturday afternoon. Storen has a "been there, done that" kind of approach to the current scenario and doesn't seem overly concerned about which direction the Blue Jays go.

"Honestly, it's something for me that's not all that important," Storen said of closing vs. pitching in a setup role. "I've dealt with it before and I know, no matter what, any of those last nine outs are important. Whatever they want me to do, I'll go out there and I'm going to do my job. I'm excited to join the team, join the guys and really work towards a championship."

What that means for the rest of the roster remains unclear. Osuna and Sanchez were projected to become starters at the big league level, but their services were required in the bullpen. If either pitcher transitions to the rotation in 2016, he'll likely be faced with a strict innings limit, and that's not necessarily a recipe for success with a contending team.

Keeping both of them in the bullpen, though, could be equally problematic. It takes another year away from the development of their secondary pitches, another year removed from pitching deep into games. There are no easy solutions here, and that's why the Blue Jays won't rush into any decisions.

"It was an opportunity to add to our pitching depth," Atkins said. "It creates flexibility in the bullpen and further continues to give us options to be creative with our starters as well."

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for Read his blog, North of the Border, follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.